During a day defined by retirements, we kept ourselves energetic and injury free to gather our thoughts on the latest action:
1. “Your health is important…”
Mo Lahyani, annoying as he is, was not wrong when he tried to get Thanasi Kokkinakis to come to his senses. The young Aussie was suffering terrible cramping throughout the second half of the fourth set, having led France’s Richard Gasquet by two sets to one. Although Kokkinakis didn’t heed Lahyani’s words at first, it wasn’t long before he had to call it quits on the match, retiring down 2-0 in the fifth set.
Kokkinakis joined a growing list of retirements from the tournament, with Diatchenko, Gulbis, Erakovic, Andujar, Monfils, Dolgopolov, Mayer and Lu all being forced to exit before the end of day 2*. That’s a fairly hefty party of injured or sick players – add to the host of seeds that fell on Monday and you’ve got a Flushing Meadows with a very, very odd start.
*I’m typing this at 10:30pm Swiss time, so there’s a chance that list grew before the day closed. You tell me, reader. YOU’RE THE ONE READING FROM THE FUTURE.
2. Isner through quickly, but not moving quickly enough
John Isner made straightforward progress in his first round versus Malek Jaziri of Tunisia. The 6-2 6-3 6-4 win was a very healthy start to the American’s campaign – not a tiebreak in sight for the big server who is sometimes criticised for struggling to create break opportunities.
The real thrills came in his press conference, however, when a certain Danish WTA favourite crashed the party with some complaints about scheduling:
It isn’t the first time we’ve seen Wozniacki hijack a press conference or player interview. Comedy Caroline is a good Caroline. She joins Isner in the second round after a 6-2 6-0 win over Jamie Loeb.
3. Roger Federer through thanks to something called SABR
Can we not with SABR, please? I had to search for so long to find out that it means “Sneaky Attack by Roger”, regarding this new return position he adopts where he basically volleys his opponent’s serve back into play. Apparently it was the Federer camp themselves who came up with this, but Roger also called both his sons the same name so he shouldn’t be trusted with these things. (Lenny and Leo both mean Leonard, people.)
His BEST shot came at the end of the second set, as he breezed past Mayer 6-1 6-2 6-2. Take a look at this in all it’s slam dunk glory:
It’s good to see both Federer and, yesterday, Novak Djokovic starting this tournament firing on all cylinders. A final between these two on good form would be something to savour. And I predicted it so…my pride is on the line.
4. Everyone’s clothes are gross
Okay, not EVERYONE, but a lot of the guys have been put in really ugly outfits for this tournament. None more so than Tomas Berdych. I’ve actually done a little bit of journalistic digging and found the minutes from the H&M design meeting for his look. Here is the meeting in full:
Designer 1: What theme shall we go for with Berdych?
Designer 2: I like crime shows.
Designer 3: I like tropical fruit.
Designer 1: Okay, let’s keep CSI: Watermelon in mind as we sketch.
AND THIS IS WHAT THEY CAME UP WITH:
To be fair, they stuck to their brief.
5. Emotions are already running high
Slams are wonderful. People get so stressed. Victoria Azarenka got stressed with the umpire, and this happened:
When you’ve been hanging around with Nick Kyrgios too much https://t.co/L7je6fHUbI
— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) September 1, 2015
Then, Andrea Petkovic got stressed with the umpire, and this happened:
Vika was able to channel her anger into a straight sets win over Hradecka, 6-1 6-2. Petkovic didn’t have such an easy time against France’s Caroline Garcia, but eventually survived the match up 3-6 6-4 7-5.
1. Nick Kyrgios is exasperating…and talented…and exasperating
With a few better decisions, this was a winnable match for Nick Kyrgios. Andy Murray certainly gave him chances, and Kyrgios created some of his own tonight with some stellar shots. But, if I had a drink for every time Kyrgios played a misguided drop shot, I would have blacked out in the first set. Also, I don’t think I’ve seen a professional player get lobbed as many times as Kyrgios did by Murray. Nevertheless, Kyrgios continued to hug the net, and made himself an easy target. And yet, he could be wildly impressive, with a jump drop shot that could have made a highlight reel if he there hadn’t been so many unnecessary tweeners, complaints to the chair, and cat naps:
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 2, 2015
Needless to say, Kyrgios’ antics had John McEnroe and the ESPN crew apoplectic while calling the match. Brad Gilbert was so stunned that he couldn’t cloak his commentary in the customary layer of nicknames.
It will be interesting to see how Lleyton Hewitt copes with his troubled charge. If anyone can teach Kyrgios the value of playing smart and grinding out points, rather than going for the winner too quickly, it is definitely Hewitt. And Hewitt knows something about hotheaded 20 year olds. But, man does he have his work cut out for him.
2. Donald Young wins the hard way
There’s nothing quite so lonely is being the guy who used to be the future of American tennis. Donald Young has carved out a respectable career as a tennis professional, and has survived the hype machine that has moved on to the Zverevs and Tiafoes of the world. Yet, for Americans especially, coverage of a Donald Young match invariably includes commentary focusing on what could have been or what never was.
Needless to say, for a player who has been accused of lacking heart, winning a match against the always tough Gilles Simon from two sets to love down is a special moment. That he could do it at his home Slam in front of the USTA folk who were often critical of his efforts (including during an ESPN broadcast with John and Patrick McEnroe in the booth) was even sweeter.
It also goes to show that, while audiences, broadcasters, and national tennis federations define success in terms of winning major titles, sustaining a professional career and continuing to persevere, even when those titles don’t come, is also a level of success worth celebrating. Many promising juniors are not able to make the transition to the professional ranks and to continue to compete. It’s true that more may have been expected of Donald Young when he first came on the scene, but there’s a lot to admire in the sustained effort he has shown, both in winning today’s match, and in continuing to push forward as a tennis professional.
3. Streaky may be the new consistent.
Interestingly, during Petra Kvitova’s blowout win over qualifier Laura Siegemund, Mary Jo Fernandez noted that Kvitova’s coach, David Kotyza, stated that his goal is for Petra to play her go-for-broke game, even if her results were not consistent. The idea is that, even though Petra might have some early losses, when the game works she could run through a tournament as she has twice at Wimbledon.
Similarly, anyone who had the (mis)fortune of watching Stan Wawrinka’s first round win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas saw the streakiness that has marked Stan’s play all along. Like Petra, when he starts hitting patches of winners, there’s no one who can stop him. But when he isn’t hitting those winners, it can get ugly. Ramos had set points in two of the three sets they played, but Wawrinka managed to string together some of his prettiest winners just for those moments. Both Kvitova and Wawrinka ended up on the winning side of the gamble today, but it wasn’t always pretty.